Adderall Abuse: Who’s Abusing it More?

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Adderall Abuse

The abuse of Adderall and other stimulants has had the most prevalence within the age bracket of young adults ages 18 to 25. There several studies researching the effects, use, and symptoms of Adderall and similar stimulants throughout the years. The most recent research and surveys shed light on the number of United States citizens that use or misuse stimulants.

In April 2018, the American Journal of Psychiatry published an article that was able to provide national statistics regarding the use of stimulants. Throughout the United States in 2018 the research provided had shown that there was a reported 16 million adults, ages 18 and older, that had used a prescription stimulant. Out of those 16 million adults, there were 11 million people that had used them without any signs of misuse. However, the remainder showed signs of misusing their prescription or signs pointing towards the diagnosis of a substance use disorder. 

More on the Statistics

Another resource, The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, provides estimates each year regarding our mental health and drug use. Although they do not provide specific numbers geared towards Adderall they do provide a section based upon stimulants. The estimates they were able to provide showcase, various age groups.  Below is some of the information their survey provided:

  • Stimulant use in total in the past year: 18,008,000
  • Stimulant misuse in total in the past year: 5,109,000
  • Stimulant misuse in the past month in total: 1,670,000
  • Stimulant misuse in the past year 12-20 years old: 1,070,000
  • Stimulant misuse in the past year 18-25 years old: 2,216,000
  • Stimulant misuse in the past year 26-49 years old: 2,363,000
  • Stimulant misuse in the past year 50-64 years old: 126,000
  • Stimulant misuse in the past year 65 and older: 34,000

The prevalence of stimulant use is across the board with the largest use in young adults. 

What is Adderall?

Adderall is one of several different stimulants that people use to treat a variety of disorders including ADHD. The intention of prescribing Adderall is to increase alertness, attention, and energy. Adderall is a central nervous system stimulant. Doctors prescribe it for the treatment of a few different disorders. In most cases, doctors prescribe Adderall to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD. People also use it to treat narcolepsy, an illness that causes unintended sleep episodes throughout any given day. On some occasions, individuals use Adderall to combat some forms of depression. While it has many uses for common disorders it also comes with signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction.

A combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine composes Adderall. The combination then raises dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Although it was created in 1887, it was initially recreated years later to treat asthma. It did not have much of an effect on asthma. But, people began using it for weight loss, to treat depression, and as energizing pills for soldiers in WWII.  

People no longer use Adderall in the same fashion as it was during WWII. But, professionals now use it to treat other disorders. Doctors today are more careful when prescribing the medication due to the rise and risk of misuse. When doctors prescribe Adderall, they usually prescribe it at the smallest dose. Then, they may gradually increase the dose if necessary. Some people may use this drug throughout their lives. But, some may find they no longer require its assistance or they show signs of addiction. In the case that someone no longer needs to take it, a doctor can help. The medical professional can slowly decrease the dosage to prevent withdrawal symptoms. 


Aside from Adderall, a prescription stimulant, there are both illegal stimulants and prescription stimulants. Prescription stimulants are those prescribed by doctors to treat the same or similar disorders to those of Adderall. 

Here are some of the most common prescription stimulants:

  • Ritalin or Concerta (Methylphenidate)
  • Focalin or Attenade (Dexmethylphenidate)
  • Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine)

Illicit stimulants and prescription stimulants have a similar impact on the body and mind. But, people who take prescription stimulants do so while having a doctor monitor them. Also, these drugs are time-released. Drugs that people obtain illegally are fast-acting and their effects do not last extremely long. Also, the high that comes from them is far more intense than the effects of prescription drugs. 

Some of the illicit stimulants include the following:

  • Cocaine
  • Crack
  • Meth (Methamphetamine)

While prescription stimulants, like Adderall, have their own place in the treatment of disorders they do come with risk and sometimes addiction. 

Does Adderall Use Have Risks or Side Effects?

Adderall, like many other prescription drugs, does come with its own set of side effects and risks. The assumption that they are safer because they a doctor prescribed them is a huge misconception. Those with ADHD or narcolepsy had a need for a potent drug like Adderall to help them get through normal day to day activities. Once they had visited their doctor, their doctor was able to monitor and find the right dosage for them specifically. For those that recreationally use Adderall or any stimulant, the dangers they may face are as serious as the risk of death. 

Some of the risks and side effects that Adderall can cause are listed below:

  • Convulsions, Seizures, Uncontrollable Twitching
  • Anxiety, Depression, Paranoia
  • Constipation, More Frequent Urination 
  • Irregular Heartbeat, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure
  • Headache, Dizziness, Nausea
  • Weight Loss, Lack of Appetite
  • Pain in the lower back or side
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Mood Swings, Aggression, Lack of Concentration 
  • Coma

Death from the use of Adderall is more likely to occur when used with other drugs or alcohol or when taken improperly. Adderall is meant to be consumed in pill form. When snorted or injected the risks increase dramatically. 

Why is Adderall Abused?

People of many different age groups abuse Adderall for much of the same reason: to focus and be productive. Within the United States, everyone is feels the need and receives pressure to meet certain goals every day. They feel that they must accomplish their workload, deal with their home life, meet their fitness goals. People try to be a good friend, student, or family member. The expectation has grown rapidly for all age brackets. However, accomplishing everything and being there for everyone constantly is simply not realistic. 

Due to these societal expectations, people seek out help. Some do so from their doctor or their therapist while others may ask their friends. That does not mean everyone will automatically begin to abuse stimulants. However, for some looking for a quick fix to a problem that may be what they believe their solution is.

Adderall and other prescription stimulants are fairly easy to access. Many people receive prescriptions for Adderall and similar substances like Vyvanse, to help with attention and focus. Some people are even able to fake symptoms to gain access to a prescription. This means it’s easy for people to obtain prescription drugs from a friend, relative, or a dealer. So, even if a person doesn’t get these substances from a doctor, there are other means. 

The estimates provided by The National Survey of Substance Abuse and Mental Health break down each age bracket even more specifically than those listed above. Furthering our understanding of each age bracket and the abuse of stimulants let’s look at the largest group impacted first.

High School and College Age Young Adults and Adolescents

In 2018, 2,447,000 people ages 16 to 25 were estimated to have abused a stimulant. Those aged 16 to 25 suggest that they were either in high school or college. Which during those years in a person’s life they are more focused on friendships, building comradery and either attempting to prepare for or already are in college. Suggesting that they want to do well in school but also have fun. This leads to the use of stimulants to hopefully boost their studies. 

Unfortunately for those not prescribed Adderall by a doctor, it can have the opposite effect. They may have intended taking it to boost their grades but finding it caused them to be more erratic or lose concentration. 

Adults and Adderall Abuse

While the most abuse to stimulants like Adderall is done by those aged 16 to 25, there was an estimate of 790,000 people that abused stimulants ages 26 to 29. Furthering that age bracket, there were 748,000 people ages 30 to 34 that were estimated to abuse stimulants. 

The ages of 26 to 34 are those that are generally developing their careers or attempting to start a family. They are expected to balance it all with a smile and that is not always an easy task. The stress to do more and strive harder can cause those to seek out ways to enhance their performance or their look, even at a cost. 

Ages 35 to 39 show a swift decline in the abuse of stimulants at 458,000. Showcasing more decline in the abuse of stimulants are those ages 40 to 44 at 206,000. During the ages of 35 to 44, many people are comfortable in their careers and less pressed to do it all. This could point towards why there is such a large decrease in the abuse of stimulants. 

While those after the age of 34 may have a smaller number of abusing stimulants they still carry a large amount of responsibility which may lead to their abuse of stimulants. 

Adderall Abuse Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults

The decline in the amount of abuse of stimulants continues to grow as people age. There are other reasons that may lead to their abuse of stimulants. Some may even be impacted due to their genetics and their previous use of stimulants in life. Others may be abusing stimulants due to their need to combat other medications they may be on or to stay active with their younger family members and colleagues. 

Those aged 45 to 49 were estimated at 161,000 to be abusing stimulants. Furthering the decrease in abuse those aged 50 to 59 had an estimate of 93,000. While even more of a significant decrease is shown from the age of 60 and older at 67,000. 

The interest in the abuse of stimulants clearly decreases with age. However, there is towards stimulants there is still a need for understanding symptoms and treatment. 

Symptoms of Adderall Abuse

Adderall abuse can happen to those that are prescribed Adderall or those that had begun taking it recreationally. Symptoms of Adderall abuse are similar to any type of substance abuse. Some of those symptoms are listed below.

  • Lying about the use of Adderall.
  • Work or school decline.
  • Stealing Adderall from others.
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
  • Fatigue or mental fog when not using Adderall.
  • Attempt to stop using and the inability to do so.
  • Mania and impulsive behavior
  • More talkative and excitable
  • The loss of appetite.
  • Sleep changes and exhaustion
  • Financial or relationship problems

Those that have a prescription for Adderall may be at risk if they take more than the doctor recommends or if their dosage is too high. Others that obtain Adderall without a prescription are at risk simply because the medication was not intended for their use. They did not need the medication to function normally. 

About Treatment for Adderall Abuse

Treatment for the abuse of Adderall may seem a bit over the top. However, because Adderall is a stimulant, it carries the same weight as an illegal substance. This substance can cause addiction just like cocaine or meth. Treatment for recovery can be intimidating but that is why we are here.

Here at Northbound Treatment Services, we understand. It’s not easy to reach out for help, especially if you’ve been struggling with drug abuse for a while. Also, we understand that addiction and substance abuse can happen in anyone’s life. Even those that use Adderall according to a doctor’s recommendation may find that they have become dependent upon it. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with Adderall misuse or dependence, there’s hope! Please contact us today at (866) 511-2458 to begin the road to recovery for you or a loved one.

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